Demand for mobile marketing talent is growing as companies increasingly seek to leverage high device adoption among consumers. However, there is a dearth of suitably skilled and trained professionals to support this niche but fast-growing trade, observe industry watchers.
According to Melissa Norman, managing director of recruitment agency Kelly Services Singapore and Malaysia, mobile offers an innovative marketing platform that is gaining momentum, thanks to enhancements in mobile technologies and the extensive choice of mobile devices available to consumers.
Companies looking to be market leaders, particularly those in FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods), want to "touch base and market" their products and services to as wide a consumer base as possible--anywhere and everywhere, Norman told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail.
Such needs are pushing the demand for skilled and experienced mobile marketing professionals but there is a scarcity of such talent across many industries and sectors, she noted.
Rohit Dadwal, Asia-Pacific managing director for non-profit industry body, Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), concurred that companies worldwide are facing difficulties attracting talented and appropriately skilled mobile marketers.
Part of the reason for the drought is that mobile is still a new and niche field that has not fully taken flight, he said in an e-mail. Dadwal added, however, that this is "quickly changing" with the industry growing at a rapid pace and more recognition being given to digital marketing efforts.
The gap in supply is also due to the desire of good tech talent to seek a more independent career and focus on innovations, rather than work within the constraints of a corporate system. This is evident from the mushrooming of entrepreneurs and startups offering mobile tools and services, he noted.
Norman said companies typically outsource their mobile marketing requirements such as mobile-optimized Web sites or mobile apps to third parties, although larger multinational corporations (MNCs) would prefer to manage their mobile marketing in-house for better control, consistency and speed to market.
Awareness, training necessary but lacking
According to Dadwal, there is no shortage of mobile innovators but the dearth is in well-skilled, trained mobile marketing talent. The latter comprises what he described as "true experts", distinguishable from those who are comfortable with the technology but lack awareness of what constitutes mobile marketing or understanding of the true marketing potential of the mobile medium.
The reach of the mobile platform as well as the affordability in terms of data plans and device prices mean mobile has a lot more to offer than other digital marketing medium, he said, adding that a true mobile marketing talent would be attuned to such "nuances".
"We see social media and mobile 'experts' popping up all over the place, but very few actually know what [mobile] has to offer, and how enterprises can use it to successfully communicate with their audiences and offer value to them," Dadwal explained.
Besides an obvious passion for the mobile screen, marketers need a "mix of technological knowhow and marketing prowess" to excel, he added.
For a start, they must possess in-depth knowledge of the mobile market including the key players, devices, operating systems and technologies, he said. They should also have an understanding of mobile marketing strategies and tools available, and how they can work to appeal to the target consumers, he noted.
At the same time, they are open-minded and willing to adapt to new mobile developments and trends in order to be innovative in leveraging various mobile technologies and achieve marketing objectives, Dadwal emphasized.
Norman also noted that unlike traditional marketing models of the past, today's marketing models engage consumers on a higher level--thanks to social media. As such, she said effective marketers understand how mobile applications can tap social media in order to maximize and amplify the company's outreach to targeted users for viral marketing purposes.
Such marketers, who are more involved in the hands-on creative design, would require technical training in design to build mobile applications and Web sites, she added.
Other specific skills needed include market research, creativity and product knowledge, so they can companies create strong branding and differentiation, Norman noted.
Asia to lead innovation
Dadwal highlighted that since mobile marketing is a new field and is also evolving faster than other communications channels, marketers need to take the initiative and responsibility to educate themselves. This is where industry bodies such as the MMA can play a role in building awareness, connections and provide specialized training, he pointed out.
For instance, it partnered online publisher SmartBrief to launch a new job board to help recruiters find talent in the mobile marketing realm.
He singled out Asia to "lead the pack" in mobile marketing innovation, given that it is already the region that is leading the mobile market.
Mobile is touted as the first screen for a large portion of Asian consumers, he said, adding that there are innovative service offerings for feature phones and sophisticated devices, due to the vastly different sets of audiences across this region.
Dadwal's observations are in line with earlier discussions on mobile marketing and advertising in the Asia-Pacific region. Yahoo executives told ZDNet Asia in an earlier report that Southeast Asia offers much potential in mobile advertising, while mobile ad network InMobi stated in an October report last year that mobile ads were well-received by two-thirds of Asian consumers.